September 1, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
Photo courtesy of Channel Islands Aviation
Are the pilots of Channel Island Aviation in Camarillo, California, really “bush” pilots? Yes, but they’re a different breed. They land in the wilderness by day but return to civilization at night—for better or worse.
You can’t land your airplane on Santa Rosa or San Miguel in the Channel Islands National Park, or on strips owned by the Nature Conservancy on Santa Cruz. Only Channel Islands Aviation (CIA for short—and that brings a lot of comments), based at Camarillo Airport, is allowed to fly out to those islands. The alternative is a long boat ride to the islands.
Next question. Why ride in the back as a fully qualified pilot? One reason is to watch and participate in bush pilot operations. Another is to ride in a 10-seat Britten-Norman Islander, which Chief Pilot Mike Oberman calls a “hoot” to fly. All takeoffs and landings are short-field operations. Sometimes they have only a 1,000-foot runway but face high crosswinds. Mike and his father, CIA owner Mark Oberman, are two of the best bush pilots in California—possibly the only ones, as well. A third reason is to explore Santa Rosa once you arrive. Trails take you to canyons, gorges, and rocky cliffs. Campsites near the Santa Rosa runway come with their own wind breaks; you’ll need those.
The Islander flies like a truck—making ponderous turns rather than crisp ones—and looks a little like one. “Aerodynamics was not the main concern when these aircraft were designed,” Mike Oberman joked. It’s a workhorse, not a show horse.
A day prior to my visit the Obermans flew marine biologists and a park ranger to Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands after their boat cancelled a trip because of a gale warning.
The next day the gale warning still hadn’t gone into effect, but winds at Santa Rosa were 40 knots, increasing to 50 when we took off 45 minutes later. The Obermans come onto final at a 30-degree angle to the Santa Rosa runway, remaining over the ocean as long as possible to stay away from the island’s turbulence. It took brief bursts of full aileron and, once, full-up elevator, for Mike Oberman to land it.
It may not require the flesh-freezing, glacier-landing, metal-fatiguing bush flying found in Alaska, but a shopping mall and Starbucks await you every evening. Try that in northern Alaska.
Who to call
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
MVP Aero is developing a $189,000 light sport amphibious seaplane that doubles as a camper and is expected to fly in 18 months, with deliveries in 2017.
The FAA will miss a deadline to reform aircraft certification by two years, the agency told the House Aviation Subcommittee during a July 23 hearing.
An accident claimed a 17-year-old pilot seeking the world record as the youngest pilot in command to fly a single-engine airplane around the world.
VOLUNTEER AT AN AOPA FLY-IN NEAR YOU!
SHARE YOUR PASSION. VOLUNTEER AT AN AOPA FLY-IN. CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>
VOLUNTEER LOCALLY AT AOPA FLY-IN! CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>
BE A PART OF THE FLY-IN VOLUNTEER CREW! CLICK TO LEARN MORE >>>